Saturday, April 10, 2021

"Always on My Mind" by Pet Shop Boys

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3459
Date:  03/26/1988
Debut:  61
Peak:  4
Weeks:  15
Genre:  Synthpop, Dance-Pop

Pop Bits:  The Pet Shop Boys' second album, Actually, would be a gold seller that added two more Top 10 hits to their tally; "It's a Sin" (#9) and "What Have I Done to Deserve This?" (#2). While it seemed natural that a third single would come from the album, that didn't happen. Instead, this one-off single that had reached #1 in the UK over the Christmas of '87 was issued out. The song quickly caught on and it became the duo's fifth Top 10 hit in the US. It also got to #8 Dance. Unfortunately, it would end up being their last single to reach the US Pop Top 10. In the UK, this song would be followed up by another Actually track, "Heart." It would soar to #1. Oddly, no further singles from Actually would be released in the US.

ReduxReview:  This should not have worked. Like, at all. Taking a beloved Elvis ballad and turning it into a Euro-dance piece seemed like a bad idea and a potential disaster. However, PSB somehow pulled it off and gave the song its highest placement of any version in both the UK and the US. How was this possible? I think there are a couple reasons. First, the duo were arguably at the peak of their popularity coming off of "What Have I Done to Deserve This," so they had momentum. Second, they didn't overthink it. They simply took the song and respectfully spun it through their world. They upped the tempo, added some synth hooky synth licks, and incorporated a little minor chord progression at the end of the verse, which made for an interesting transition. The melody and sentiment was still there. It was just taken to the club dance floor. I remember when this came out I hadn't purchased Actually yet. I was glad I waited because after this song started to shape up as a hit, they repackaged the LP to include the 12" vinyl single along with the regular album. The one thing I hold against the hit is that it interrupted the singles from Actually. "Heart" should have been a hit in the US. It was so strange it didn't get released after this song, but I'm guessing the first single from their next LP Introspective was nearly ready to go, so the timing of singles got skewed due to "Always on My Mind" coming out of the blue. Still, this made for an interesting song in their catalog.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This is a remake of song that became strongly associated with Elvis Presley. Presley recorded the song in 1972 and it was first issued out as the b-side to "Separate Ways," which got to #20 Pop. The single became a double a-sided hit on the Country chart reaching #16. In the UK, "Always on My Mind" was the a-side and it went to #9. It is often considered one of Presley's finest recordings. However, Presley was not the first artist to record the song. B.J. Thomas was the first to attempt the tune in 1970. It was initially scheduled to be a single, but for some reason the track got shelved. The first artist to record and release the song was soul singer Gwen McCrae in 1972. Titled "You Were Always on My Mind," the song failed to chart. Then the first person to record and chart with the song was Brenda Lee. Her 1972 version got to #45 Country. Presley's version came next. Country singer John Wesley Ryles would get to #20 on the Country chart with a version in 1979. The song would finally get on the Pop chart thanks to Willie Nelson. His 1982 take would get to #5 Pop/#1 Country. Although there have been a reported 300 recorded covers of the song, thus far the only other act to have a version make the Pop chart as been Pet Shop Boys, which got one notch higher than Nelson's single.  2) This song came about when Pet Shop Boys were asked to be a part of Love Me Tender, a British TV special that was done for the tenth anniversary of Elvis Presley's death. For the show, Pet Shop Boys chose to cover "Always on My Mind," which was a #9 hit in the UK for Presley. It seems folks loved their take on the song so much that PSB decided to push it out as a single. It became their third UK #1. Later in '88, they would re-record the song and combine it with their techno track "In My House" for their Introspective album.


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